Volleyball Referees
Procedures for First and Second Officials

Of the two volleyball referees, the first referee is known as the up official or head referee.

In USA or FIVB competition, the first referee is usually referred to as the first official or R1.

In high school volleyball, the down referee is also known as theumpire.

In USA or FIVB competition, the second referee is usually referred to as the second official or R2.

USAV rules somewhat differ from High School and other volleyball competitions. With this fact, it's important to become familiar with the different rules for playing

As a player, coach, or referee, you should be familiar with the rules to get that competitive edge.

Volleyball Referees

First Official (R1 or up referee) - Volleyball Referees

The first referee is the official that stands on the referee stand (raised platform) positioned at on the side of the court across from the team benches. It is the first referee that starts play by whistling and signaling (beckoning) the server to serve the ball.

The first referee is the official in charge. If they feel it's necessary to do so, the first referee has the authority to overrule any of the other officials (second referee scorekeeper, libero tracker, or line judges).

Also, the first referee may have officials replaced if it is needed.

The volleyball referees should discuss before the match on what the second referee needs to signal to the first referee (illegal ball handling, illegal back row and blocks and attacks, etc.).


Whistle any violations It is the first referees responsibility to whistle any and all violations they see. If possible, the second referee should whistle net violations, centerline violations, serve receive position faults, and serving order violations. If the second official doesnt catch these violations, the first referee has the authority to make the call.

Whistle player mishandling the ball Only the first referee has the authority to whistle ball handling (lifts, double contacts, 4 hits, etc.). If appropriate, the second referee may discretely signal ball handling to the first referee.

Giving Sanctions Only the first referee has the authority to issue sanctions to players, coaches, etc.

Second Official (R2 or down referee) - Volleyball Referees

The second referee is concerned with matters such as keeping time, assisting the first referee in making calls,administering substitutions, and verbally communicating with team coaches.

The second referee also needs to communicate effectively with the scorekeeper. The second referee should overlook the scorekeeper with recording subs, timeouts, etc. The second referee should help the scorekeeper and libero tracker with any questions or issues that come up.

The second referee (or umpire) stands on the ground on the opposite side of the court from the first referee. The second referee should position themselves so they can effectively transition from one side of the net to the other when the ball is in play.

The second referees main responsibility is to manage the court, that is, communicate effectively with players and coaches at the team bench area, the work crew at the scores table, the line judges, and first referee. The second referee should assist the first referee (hand signaling the first referee or blowing the whistle to make calls) in order for the match to run as smoothly as possible.


Watch teams for overlaps during the serve Watch the receiving team at the moment the ball is served for overlaps.

Switching sides of the net The second referee switches positions one side of the net to the other during the match, always staying on the side opposite the ball.

Handles substitutions The second referee administers subs, making sure the subs are recorded properly on the scoresheet. When the scorekeeper has finished recording the subs, a hand signal is given to the first referee signaling play is ready.

Handles time outs When a coach or team captain calls time out, the second referee should blow the whistle and signal time out. The second referee times the time outs, whistles at the end of time, and signals how many time outs have been taken by each team. 

Check out my favorite referee whistles and reviews here.

If you enjoyed these tips and would like to keep it close to you at any time, just save this pin to your Pinterest Volleyball Training Board.

How to Officiate Volleyball

Volleyball Referees Related Pages

Rules for Officials

Game Rules



› Volleyball Referees